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Colour deficiency problems in cricketers

Yorkshire and former England cricketer Gary Ballance is in the form of his life, having already scored 1,000 runs in all competitions this season. However, his hopes of an international recall this summer are reduced because England are playing three day-night tests with a pink ball in the next 11 months.


The problem for Ballance is that he is colour deficient (a better term than “colour blind” because he can see colours, but sometimes can’t distinguish between them), and has particular difficulty distinguishing between pinks and greens. The pink ball would probably be quite clear against a white sightscreen, but may be very hard to pick up when it bounces. It may also disappear when he’s fielding as the ball could get lost against the background of a crowd in the stands.


There are tints that can enhance certain colours. For instance, clay-pigeon shooters find a light purple

colour can enhance the orange of the clay against a background of trees. But there are also tints designed specifically for those who are colour deficient.


One such is the Chromagen contact lens. In 2000, an experiment was done to test the effectiveness of Chromagen lenses in real life for 14 colour deficient volunteers. 13 out of the 14 expressed interest in wearing the lenses on at least an occasional basis, though only two were prepared to pay the full cost.  I remember fitting these lenses many years ago to an electrician who had difficulty distinguishing red wires in poor light. He found the lens useful for that specific purpose: I suppose he was highly motivated not to electrocute himself.


For a cricketer, a contact lens is likely to be better than a spectacle tint because spectacles are often impractical under a helmet. The vision will seem strange initially, so it will be a question of trying it for a time to see if it helps.


Colour discrimination isn’t just a problem for cricketers. A number of top snooker players - Mark Allen, Peter Ebdon, Mark Williams and Stephen Lee – are also colour deficient. Their biggest problem is usually distinguishing the brown ball when it’s amongst the reds. A red-enhancing tint may help, but it seems that these players generally get round the problem by asking the referee if they can’t see where the brown is.

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